With a 2-1 loss to Wolverhampton Wanderers, Manchester United are now out of the FA Cup. While they did not celebrate the defeat by any means, that loss does have quite the silver lining: a much more clear calendar in the run-up to their meeting with FC Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League.
United will play Wolves again on the 2nd of April, but then they will have 7 full days’ rest before they meet Barcelona on the 10th. By contrast, Barcelona play Villarreal on the 2nd, then Atlético Madrid on the 6th, before the same match against United on the 10th.
Atlético are in second place in La Liga and known for their physical style. It will be a grueling test of endurance for the Catalans, while the Red Devils will be able to solely focus on the Champions League match at Camp Nou. Mercifully, Barcelona can afford a slip or two in the league, as they are now 10 points clear after beating Betis 4-1.
Before all that, Barça must first face Espanyol in what is probably another physical derby, on the 30th of March, after the conclusion of the international break. United play Watford that day.
Ernesto Valverde will have to figure out his rotation policy in order to keep the squad fresh for the quarterfinal. Luis Suárez will miss the two upcoming friendlies Uruguay are set to play, which might be for the best. He complained that last season he felt tired when Barcelona crashed out to AS Roma in the second leg of that term’s Champions League quarterfinals.